Siberia ghost town
Characters, places, and concepts
within my book
“What an immeasurable limitless desert this is.
What could you deduce here of God’s purposes,
what, in this dead emptiness, is He permitting?
In this blank terrain, inimical to life,
all-consuming, all-consumed, totally burned up and out,
totally unsupportive of humanity’s self-belief;
this fragment, or segment, of a world-self that is not;
this corpse which, never since the earth was born,
has given its creator a single word in return.”
Let us begin with an introduction to the places and characters which play a role in my story of Going Alone. Some of these will figure notably in the book, while others are only mentioned briefly, or not at all, or may only appear elsewhere, such as in my other writings or within the many videos I have made and shared about the deep wilderness settings which I have explored in Japan and America. Each of these places and characters are important to me for their use as landmarks, symbols, or analogy to the ideas I wish to convey; and as we proceed through this book, I would like you to imagine four separate regions where these places and characters exist as elements of the story I want to tell.
The first region is this civilization we enjoy and share (even if you and I are separated now by vast space and time) and which is the common bond between my writing these words and your reading of them. I do not think I need to speak much of this civil place and circumstance between us, given the fact that it is our common human heritage, even if I am from California and you are from Istanbul. This shared resource of human connection is something we both know, enjoy, and may sometimes struggle to find and maintain a place within. It is our civilization, and our community, and our people, and our home. This is the place from which we will start. It is the setting out point for this adventure of Going Alone. Do not lose sight of it. Never forget what it is, or how important this grounding will always be to the well-lived life, to the social life, to The Good Life.
The next three regions of potential exploration are settings increasingly removed from civilization; places elsewhere and far away, distant, and remote to our common understanding and the comfort of what we know is true. You and I are both aliens of a sort in these less explored places, especially when we go alone, and especially when we go alone where there are no roads, trails, paths, or opportunity of help; or where the connections, security, and comfort we've left behind are now truly out of reach. At the near edge of this vast and mostly universal wild there is a crossing over point and borderland which I call The Edge of Deep-Water. It is a high point between civilization and the deeper wilds. A place where we can at once see, hear, and otherwise perceive both the last vestige of our home and community in the near distance behind us, as well as the empty lands of wildness dead ahead and down below. This, Edge of Deep-Water is someplace we can indeed visit. And if we are lucky, and if we go alone, then just maybe we will catch a glimpse there of the terrible thing I call The Great Indifference which is defined further in this book. I recommend going no further than this edge if you are timid or scared, or not willing to risk, or to lose, or to die seemingly too soon. This is my very real and sincere warning to you. I am not trying to seem dramatic or to simply entertain you with dangerous-sounding cautions. Death and something possibly much worse can really find you when you perceive The Great Indifference. Do not go alone to The Edge of Deep-Water if you do not really want to know. And if you do go, then go alone, and do not try to follow me… You will not find what is not there if you do.
Next, and beyond The Edge of Deep-Water, comes the Deep-Water Wilderness itself. This is where most of the remaining characters and places in this book are found. They are landmarks, as I said, and though they are indeed real, it does not really matter if you find them. In fact, you are better off discovering such things in a “desert” of your own seeking. Go somewhere else. Find something else. Take your own scary risks. Do not seek the places and things which I have found and have related here. Do not look for The Great Indifference just where I found it, as it will be hard to see with the echo of my past passage blinding your view and confounding your footsteps. And if you do go where I once went, and then successfully locate any of my landmarks, such as The Watcher or The Miner or Campo #1, or The Home of Faith or even Mt. Wildness itself, then I bet you’ll stand there and say to yourself…“why the hell did I come here?!?” and “What was Kurt talking about? This is nothing!” And so, it’ll be…nothing, to you. That is because, even if you went to my places all by yourself, you did not truly go alone.
The last place on my indistinct map of regions is The Great Indifference itself, which is both beyond, and within The Deep-Water Wilderness. It is everywhere, in fact, only we can see it better the further we get out there in the "desert." It’s in the mountains too, and in the sea, and where you work, and where you live; though you can’t very well perceive such empty in these places due to the clutter of life and the artifacts of living. To perceive The Great Indifference clearly, you will need a desert, and you will need to go far. Far beyond your own Edge of Deep-Water (give one last look back before you proceed), going down and into your own Deep-Water and then beyond. Do you see it out there? If so, then now what… Read on to learn how I answered this peculiar question in my own life, which is the substance and subject of my book and story.
But first, let’s meet the cast of Going Alone:
Siberia Ghost Town
“Alas, how is’t with you,
That you do bend your eye on vacancy,
And with th’ incorporeal air do hold discourse?”
-William Shakespeare (Hamlet)
Siberia is a small, deserted community halfway up the Mojave Grade between Amboy and Ludlow in the Southern California desert. There is nothing at Siberia now but ruins and ghosts, and even these have only enough remembrance to barely exist as rubble, dust, and fiction. Come here when you are ready to go further. But do not expect to find what you are looking for. It is not here. True, there were once people, lives, and dreams at this place—lives and dreams like yours and mine—though there is nothing more now to see at Siberia, though there's perhaps much yet to discover and learn. But only if you go alone. And only if you find your own “Siberia.”
Siberia ghost town owes its existence and history to the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe railroad, the tracks of which run just north of the crumbled stone ruins of the ghost town's former train station. While nearby Route 66 has all but died, the BNSF remains a thriving concern, with mile-long freight trains passing east and west several times every hour, day, and night, breaking the desert silence with thunderous locomotives heading up a long string of heavy freight cars moving slowly through the desert. The locomotives proceed always on their way through every desert town and siding (even the ghost towns), by issuing four blasts of the lead engine’s deep, resonant train horn: two long blasts, followed by a short blast and then a last long bellow as the train approaches and then passes through the lonely Siberia railway crossing. These trains are an irregular timepiece and reminder of what we have left behind in coming here. They pass us by very closely, yet remain impossibly far, especially at night, especially when there is no moon, and the wind blows, and we wake up, and we ask ourselves why we've come at all to such a place, and why we came alone.
Route 66, aka "The Mother Road" is now a lonesome stretch of highway running alongside the BNSF railroad through much of the East Mojave Desert. This old highway is my access to Siberia ghost town…with the infrequent traffic along this road being but an echo of the millions of people who arrived in California via this famous and historic transcontinental thoroughfare. There is a marker facing east at the north side of Route 66, where a small dirt road leads off along the short drive up to Siberia. The marker is a large tire with the words "West Siberia" written on it in white spray-paint. I sometimes wonder how many west-bound travelers on Route 66 even notice the marker... Sometimes, I will stand a short way off in the desert near the tire to watch folk's faces as they drive past the ghost town entrance. The only people who ever seem to notice the sign—or me, standing alone in the empty desert—are the employees of the BNSF railroad, passing by in their large white utility trucks. They notice me as I am out-of-place in a landscape they know. The others never see me. They do not know this place; as they are perhaps too focused on their Route 66 journey, which is simply yet another unworthy distraction.
“Active in indolence, abroad we roam
In quest of happiness which dwells at home:
With vain pursuits fatigu’d, at length you’ll find,
No place excludes it from an equal mind.”
This is the place where my muse lives—or where she followed me to before I at last caught up... We have conspired a lot down here...the two of us...as if we are truly just one. Such an idea! The bridge was our shelter, and a catalyst to thought away from a reality masking the quite stark and terrible truth it took me fifty years to find. I have some personal things stashed down there in the rafters under the bridge: a chair, a camera tripod, and some chalk. You're welcome to these things if you find them, as they are a bother and a clutter to the simplicity that I first found here under this old road. The underside of this bridge can be a scary place to go when you are alone—especially at night. I would not want to go there if I was not already me. If you do go, well, you know...go alone.
The Path of Wildness
“The bounds of knowledge marks, and points the way; to pathless wastes, where wilder’d sages stray”
The Path of Wildness is both a place in fiction and something real. I first developed this concept while living in Japan and while exploring a wilderness landscape too civil and tame to reveal the deeper truth I would later come to know in the wilder places of the American desert. The Path of Wildness is symbolic of our courage in moving forward along the riskier courses of life, where such direction seems the way our intuition suggests we should go. It takes great courage to "step upon the path," which is a way untraveled, uncertain, and unforgiving. Yet, the rewards are sometimes—though not always—worth the risk, especially to those who no longer seek the gain. But of course, we can go this way only when we muster the courage to move forward alone. As there is no Path of Wildness to be found while in the company of others. Do not go if you are very scared. Please consider this my warning—as what you might surely lose along the way may not be worth the journey. That is your loss.
Throughout this book I refer sometimes to paths, trails, ways and sometimes roads. I use these words carefully and deliberately. I use them to describe passage through life which is safe or sane or familiar or perhaps alien and strange and remote. Trails, ways, and roads are places where we follow others and where we are not likely to encounter anything which our species has not already met. Such places are seemingly tame and civilized and somehow sanctioned by virtue of the past passage of others—even if that passage was long ago and forgotten. Even the slightest hint of another of our kind will spoil the way, but only if you do not want to find what might otherwise be there. When we step off any road, trail or way and begin moving—preferably walking—alone, then we disembark from the comfort and reassurance of precedent. We leave behind our guides. We forget to follow. We begin to move on The Path of Wildness.
After returning to America in 2014, I discovered that The Path of Wildness in fact exists, as a short, stone-lined walkway in the empty desert surrounding the deserted ghost town of Siberia. You can go there and walk the path now—leading from nowhere to nowhere. Only do not expect the journey to end where you want, or where the path peters out, or anywhere in particular at all. And for best results—only go alone.
The Sandman’s Bed
“But desert space and atoms invisible.”
This is a place I discovered during the The Anxiety Hike and which is described in the chapter of the same name in this book. The Sandman's Bed is an area of rough badlands made of decomposing granite, furrowed by a maze of flash flood channels carved into the granite through eons of weathering and erosion. The area is immense and often without wind...with very still and silent air...and an almost unsettling quietude. The sand within the twisting, bone-dry stream beds here is soft and easy to walk on, and while the loose and weathered granite surrounding these dry watercourses is solid, it is nevertheless slippery like marbles and slick like glass and thus potentially quite dangerous to cross. This is a place where you are likely to trip and fall or twist an ankle or pull a tendon and become unable to walk. This is also a good place to come to meet, and get to know, the side of yourself which maybe didn't expect a universe without intrinsic meaning...or that didn't know that you could be so lonesome with the idea of a universe chock full of empty. Do you think you can weather the silence here? Can you maintain your equanimity in the face of such unsettling peace and quiet? Dare you take off your shoes when you are so far alone into the Sandman's maze, to then lie upon the sand, and close your eyes, and see just how long you can keep your eyes shut. Come here other than alone and you might as well have never come at all.
“A fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.”
Mt. Wildness is my perennial destination, and a place where I have never been, and will never, ever, arrive – at least you'll never hear that from me. I made up Mt. Wildness while living in Japan; imagining this mountain as the home of the true things I feared most, and a destination I could strive for in my better moments. I imagined Mt. Wildness as having two sides: the near and the far side, with the near side being the place I could actually approach in relative safety, while the far side is an impossible distance I might indeed someday reach, but from which then I might then never fully return. Mt. Wildness became a real place to me after I came home to America and identified a very remote mountain in the Eastern Mojave Desert as this likely peak. I later concluded I was wrong and have since identified a new and much more distant peak—further and more terrible—as the “real” Mt. Wildness. It is my goal to hike to this mountain before my life is done. But I'll never tell anyone what I find there. Going to Mt. Wildness may be the last thing I ever do.
The Woodsman’s Cabin and Campo #1
“When I’m there I hate it.
When I’m here I miss it.
It’s a paradox.”
The Woodsman's Cabin is another place which I dreamed up in Japan. The idea probably began as a result of the many abandoned farms—and in particular the forgotten and dilapidated old farm sheds, chock full of old farming tools—which I found while exploring in the deep mountains of central Japan. There was something about these deserted places which suggested past care and concern by humans, and the subsequent loss of any consideration or remembrance even. There is an emptiness about such places which in some ways is deeper and more telling than the mere nothing we can sometimes—and sometimes only—sense while alone in very wild places. This is the atmosphere and character of The Woodsman's Cabin—a token of the wonderful warmth and love of what was—discovered in contrast to, and within the cold embrace of, the emptiness which will forever be.
Campo #1 is a very real place, and the remnant of a former desert mining site located at the edge of The Deep-Water Wilderness. It, and the Woodsman's Cabin, are central to the story of Going Alone, as these real places are the last real frontiers of connection in my own adventure before entering a place, I call The Valley of the Soulless Beasts, which is too distant a place to visit in this book. I sometimes use this lost camp to overnight at when exploring the deeper desert. It is a good place to rest and sleep and remember what we are now, and what we soon must not become.
The Deep-Water Wilderness
“But what must be the solicitude of him who should be wandering, among the cracks and hollows, benighted, ignorant, and alone?”
This is a real place—though the name is one I came up with myself. Honestly, I do not know what this place might be properly called, as it seems at once too unremarkable and uninteresting a landscape to be worthy of a name all its own. But I gave it a name, nonetheless. You can get to the Deep-Water Wilderness by first going to Siberia ghost town (just plug the ghost town’s name into your device’s map application). After you arrive, start walking towards those low hills to the north. When you get there, then get ready...for what is beyond those hills is harder than it looks. That "beyond" is the Deep-Water Wilderness. Are you ready for a swim beyond your depths? Just how long can you tread and keep your head above water? This is the landscape where the Desert Killers live. The Killer is there when you expect it should be; but also, perhaps when you might not. The only real sanctuary here is the Home of Faith, which I have defined and described a little further in this book. But even faith cannot keep you alive or intact if you are too trusting, bold, or foolish. The Deep-Water Wilderness is someplace you should never bring any such nonsense. You have been warned.
The Edge of Deep-Water
“Therefore the door of death is never closed to sky and sun and earth and sea’s deep waters. No. It stands open, and with vast gaping mouth it waits for them.”
This is where you can fairly safely go from Siberia, if you simply want to glimpse the empty without much risk of the empty glimpsing you. Never go here during summer though, as you really will not make it back. However, during almost any other time of year, just go to Siberia ghost town and then walk north for a mile or so until you reach those low hills. Carefully climb the hills, and when you reach the top then look north out over the edge. If you go to the highest point in these low hills, then you can stand in my own footsteps for whatever that might be worth. I wonder if you will also feel my fear while you stand there. Look north and down now from where you are. That place down below is where the last part of the Anxiety Hike took place. You are standing now at the very final point in the Anxiety Hike chapter of this book, at the place where I point out that you can see Siberia once more…you can finally see safety again! You are out. You have made it.
There is a "Watcher" down there (described below) in that twisting canyon just below you, watching even now, even a hundred years after I write these words, down and a little to the east. Can you find it? I have left something there for you in case you try. Though the Watcher is watching always, it will never see you, as there is too much empty blocking the view. If you are lucky, then this same empty will soon become apparent to your own view—this is The Great Indifference, which begins here. Those black mountains dead ahead—yet very far—in the distance...that is a place to go. But remember always, the Desert Killer which can easily find you from this point on. There is a sanctuary here called The Home of Faith. Can you find it? I never did. And I died without knowing. Just like my father before me. A very worthy death—if not without some risk.
"I sat down to make notes on a green bank, with a small stream running at my feet, in the midst of savage solitude, with mountains before me, and on either hand covered with heath. I looked round me, and wondered that I was not more affected, but the mind is not at all time equally ready to be put into motion."
I first learned of the muse through literary references, though "she" did not start speaking to me (or at least I did not begin to notice or hear) until my early to mid-20s. At that time, her voice was more youthful and optimistic, full of new promise, and hinting at the rich and varied life of potential to come. Was she fooling me then? Or perhaps was she simply as young, dumb, and innocent as I? Our work product together then was an expression and outlet for a rich fecundity of thought both buoyant and light, and characterized by an animate energy that was my right at so young an age... Now, my muse is older, and seemingly more mature. Her attitude is still one of optimism, though she tempers this with an almost cold and naked inflammatory confession that she was never alive to begin with. All those years of warmth...that was simply me embracing myself in the mirror; holding my hot mortal being to myself, while pretending there were two of me: myself, and my muse. Now, I know there was never the muse, and it was always just me... And now I feel my end is coming soon. And for this reason, I no longer lie. The muse is nothing. Her impression is my own want of something more. Her inspiration, my vain expression of lasting substance and eternal life where there is none. My muse is a corpse. My own corpse. A recognition of death before I am dead. And a decision to live while there is still some time left to be alive.
The Ghosts of Siberia
“The graves are very numerous, and some of them undoubtedly contain the remains of men, who did not expect to be so soon forgotten.”
These ghosts were suggested by the presence of graves I've discovered at and around various ghost towns in the Eastern Mojave Desert. Though Siberia ghost town does not have a proper graveyard, there are nevertheless a few stone monuments which appear to be graves, scattered here and there in the surrounding desert. These markers suggest the memory of people who once lived here, and who made this place home. These are the "ghosts" which haunt my thoughts whenever I come here alone. Remembered, in fact, by no one.
The Great Indifference
“Is there none out there to respond?
No one at all?
No one in the abyss?
Nor under the heavens’ shell?”
This concept is central to the entire story within this book. The Great Indifference is the book’s last destination, and someplace from which I have conspired an escape. That is the somewhat hidden punchline of the story…that we can meet something in nature so awful as The Great Indifference and then carry on living good and meaningful lives without either denying or hiding from the fact of what we’ve not found; or making up stories to dispel and quiet our fears. The idea of encountering The Great Indifference is that when we go far enough alone into nature, we may discover a type of emptiness and void which is both awesome and unsettling. It is this vista of disinterest which I call The Great Indifference. It is a recognition of no love or caring in nature beyond what we find with one another, as well as with a few select species which have evolved to become our companions and friends. Other than with these, there are none who truly care if we live or die, thrive, or suffer; or if we even find peace with the wholesale recognition of just how truly alone, we really are... In short, The Great Indifference is the recognition of a universe devoid of the wishful presence of a loving god—or any god—or any others, besides other members of our species or our pets, who might have some capacity to love and to care. The Great Indifference is a place utterly silent of evident meaning. It is also suggestive of our own capacity to create meaning by our own willful decisions and efforts. To reclaim some sense of meaning from the awful night.
“Only the solitary individual is subject, like a thing, to the fundamental laws.”
-Rainer Maria Rilke
Disclaimer: There is a problem with this term The Great Indifference, in that the phrasing suggests some context or character from which indifference might emerge – namely, it suggests god; and I do not mean that. In fact, I mean the exact opposite. I perceive no god out there in the deep desert. And the arguments others make for god being real are clearly weak, and contrived, and poorly reasoned; constituting little more than a thin veneer of pretend, masking the necessity of faith to hold aloft ideas more vacuous of truth than fiction; more empty still for the very fact that believers accept the fantasy as true. And the irony, that I created a term to describe a universe seemingly devoid of god, which then winds up backing me straight into god (it may be a deistic god, but a god nonetheless), does not escape my attention...and honestly, this fact frustrates me a bit. It is a problem of language. An issue of vocabulary. As I cannot quite find a better term or phrase to describe the universe’s seeming uncaring or incapacity to care, without then also implying something with this very capacity to care. I will live with that.
Another problem with the term The Great Indifference is the fact of us… We are part of this universe, and we are certainly not indifferent. In this way, the universe has indeed acquired the ability—through us—to become either interested or indifferent at least insofar as we, and other sentient species on earth like us, exist, and through the possible existence elsewhere in the universe of other forms of sentient life. In this way, the universe is clearly not indifferent. Yet, it seems that the vast infinitude of the universe does mostly match my original meaning of The Great Indifference, insofar as this term describes what I perceive—through my quite limited sense and cognition—to be an enormous vista of emptiness and uncaring, which serves as the backdrop and context for every aspect of our lives. We avoid staring into this deep empty by way of our incessant busy living, punctuating our moments with innumerable distractions and entertainments. And in living this way, we fail to see what is not out there not loving or caring about us, in fact may not be capable of loving or caring about us, or even knowing that we are here. And by ignoring this great emptiness and void we then run the risk of perhaps attributing more to the universe than might be warranted; dreaming up fantasies of significance and eternities of joy for the good and damnation for the bad which the universe mutely implies are hardly real or even utterly false. So, I will stick with my term The Great Indifference. Partly because I cannot think of a better phrase, but really because it’s exactly what I’m trying to say.
A few times in this book I reference a place called the Volcano Wilderness. This is a place about thirty miles west of Siberia along Route 66 and near the town of Newberry Springs. This is the very first place I spotted—and almost recognized—The Great Indifference. To get there simply drive to the end of Gasco Road and park near the fenced gas pipeline work yard. Do not worry, nobody is likely to bother your vehicle here. Get out and begin walking south and uphill toward those low black mountains in the distance. It is a long walk. A very long walk. When you reach the mountains, then find your way up and to the left. When you arrive at the top then look over the edge. That thing you do not see down there…that is The Great Indifference. But do not bring anyone with you unless you are only after a difficult hike. This is also the area where I brought my daughter, and where I found those human bones mentioned a few times in this book.
The Soulless Beasts
“Man that is in honour, and
understandeth not, is like the beasts
A class of animals—which include me—who wander the desert wastes beyond the pale memory of what once was alive and loving at and around Siberia ghost town, and other desert places like it. The Soulless Beasts are strong, and full of the base energy and determination which characterizes nature in places which humans have forgot or never cared to love. The Soulless Beasts typically emerge at night—being most active in moonless dark—which fact hides their living; and camouflages their determination from any minds which might suspect something more to life than simply staying alive and getting our genes into the next generation. The Soulless Beasts display both purpose and meaning, of a sort, while trotting, crawling, slithering, or flying along The Path of Wildness. I know what it is to move among their midst. I know when I am with them alone what it is like to have no soul. I remember that I too, have no soul.
The Desert Killer
“For all things soon pass away and become a mere tale, and complete oblivion soon buries them.”
Death stalks the desert lands at all times; though most particularly during the very hot and very cold seasons, when life can be either burned out of us from within or evaporated away in the shivering cold. In either case, the killer does not care about anything we might feel, or say, or do, or pretend while our living is slowly drawn out and away through either an excess or absence of temperature. Death then, is nearly always present and persistent in the desert. Death never cared nor cares.
The Summer Killer lives in the east, and arrives at dawn, and stalks the wastes boldly throughout the day after mid-morning; retreating only at night; and sometimes not even then. The Winter Killer comes from within, though its breath is the cold outside night wind; and its touch, the caress of cold outer-space looming with empty behind a thin veil of breathless atmospheric night. Beware these two killers wandering the seasonal wastes. Avoid their paths. Stay clear. Your death is no matter to them. They are not real and are incapable of care regarding life or death.
My little god
“All men are equally afraid of death when they see it; only some have a power of turning their sight away from it better than others.”
My little god is so small as to be almost non-existent. He lives with me to remind me of the things I fear and which I am tempted to invent solutions for in order to make the fear go away. My little god gets angry when I doubt, or ask questions, or consider other options. He wants me to follow him – though he has no real idea where to go; and would rather sit at home all day or even hide beneath the covers of my bed. I make an effort to write his name "god" in lower-case letters, though if he could read, he would surely see this as my sacrilege. I do this to him as a deliberate insult to his feigned importance and contrived consequence. It is an expression of my disdain for his petty, mere, and very slight existence. An existence only within my mind, and when I think of him, and when I call his facile cheat.
I have made a home for my little god there in the wilderness. It is just below the Edge of Deep-Water. Below that place I previously suggested you go, to look across and over the place you should probably not go.
My little god is very real. He came with me from Japan; and lives now in a small hole above that sandy wash leading into Deep-Water from the dangerous abandoned mine shaft. Check the holes. If you find him...if you find my little god...then tell him please that he is not true – and then leave him alone there, to become forgotten once more.
“He found him in a desert land,
and in the waste howling wilderness...”
The Howling represents the place which is further and beyond the point where I know I can venture, and still hope to return home sound and intact to my family. It is not that whatever is out there making the howling can necessarily hurt me—though it certainly isn't harmless—but instead that once I reach that place, I can probably never fully return. Something of me will remain there always, or will die, or will become extinct—like a lost memory of something that once was and will never again be. So, while I have no plan to discover the source of The Howling during the course of my otherwise sane and sober living, I do hope that chance will allow me one last fleeting glimpse before the final light of my living is extinguished for good. I do not think I can successfully hear or locate The Howling unless I’m very, very alone.
“But the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.”
The Watcher is nothing more than a pile of stones atop a small rise adjacent the southwest flank of the hill I call Black Mountain. This name "Watcher" came about after I first spotted the stones of which The Watcher is made, during one of my earliest hikes in the area. I'd been about a mile away at the time; and could see atop the rise what appeared to be a solitary human figure standing and looking my way. This sight was quite unsettling at the time, as I was convinced, I was alone there, and could not imagine another human being anywhere nearby, let alone someone so clearly watching me. The figure never moved though throughout that first day, and I soon determined it was nothing more than a pile of placed stones—probably a mining claim. Return visits to the area confirmed my suspicions, as The Watcher was always there (he's probably out there now) and when I at last paid him a visit, I found the site was indeed nothing more than a long-forgotten pile of stones marking the site where a miner had once suspected some mineral riches might be found. It is interesting to know that the stones which the miner so carefully placed here remain still in their assigned positions, so long after the hand which set them has certainly turned to dust.
The Miner is the last—though not the final—character I've so far met within the Deep-Water Wilderness. You will find him sitting atop a small ridge about a quarter mile from the spot where the canyon leading up from the dangerous abandoned mine shaft begins to open and widen into a landscape of color (see the section of this book titled “The Anxiety Hike”). The Miner is there, off to the right, maybe not looking at you, in fact—perhaps looking at nothing—but there, and looking, nonetheless. I would imagine this miner might be the last familiar figure I'd see in this life should I someday find my end out there “Beyond Deep-Water”, in the heart of the black mountains, or maybe amidst the Sandman’s Bed, or perhaps even out there somewhere in the distant vicinity of Mt. Wildness. This is not an end I want—though it is also not an end I would not want.
“Ay, but to die and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod…”
The Homunculus is nothing more than that little man or woman who lives in our heads, and who peeks out at the world from behind our eyeballs. It is the small person who pulls the levers and pushes the buttons of our mind, guiding us along and steering our body and brain through every circumstance and decision. The Homunculus is the one who suffers when we fail, who rejoices when we succeed, and who stands accountable for every consequence of the fact of our life. This little “person” is trapped in our head, cannot get out, and will die when we die. The Homunculus sometimes fools itself into thinking it can, and will, one day escape our cooling corpse. It tells itself that there is a way out, a hatch somewhere perhaps to admit it away from the end of our mortal being. The Homunculus has no idea where this hatch is, nor any clue about how to undo the binding straps which hold it secure within our cranium. But never mind these facts...it will survive. We simply know this is true. Though we have no idea how or why. Some Homunculi though, prefer not to be fooled. And they look out at the world, not as a temporary passenger prepared to embark to somewhere new, but instead as a trapped and bound mortal, counting down the months, days, and hours to an untimely end. Untimely, insofar as it wants to go on...but knows it cannot. For this reason, such Homunculi are sometimes reluctant to close their eyes... Why sleep now when there is still some light? Why rest when there is yet living action to perform? Why die when there is still some possible time to live? This is The Homunculus. The little mortal within our head. The one little life we get to live. A life and living of one. A very true and real example of Going Alone. But only if we recognize there is no apparent way out.
The Home of Faith
The Home of Faith is a dark and quiet place... There is little sound or sunlight here, where the stone walls are as thick as a mountain, and the darkness within the cave as deep as any hole might expect to get. The way in is easy… Just decide to believe instead of pursuing doubt...and the portal will open, and you will stumble or fall some impossibly near distance into a dark depth you can hardly comprehend. It is then very hard to get out, even if you do find an exit. Once inside, it is tempting to continue retreating further until the disturbing noise of reason which sent you here becomes silent at last. Then—once you can no longer hear—you will be satisfied, though you will also really be quite alone, alone with your confidence, which shines with only the dimmest cold light. There is no real warmth here, though there is a sort of comfort…a comfort you can get used to over time. The cold comfort of faith. This is after all…The Home of Faith. Beware that. It is the same comfort of the grave... Linger here too long, and you too may become just another living, buried corpse.